By on April 28, 2016


winter tires. shutterstock user Alex Polo

Jeremy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My mother-in-law just moved from Ft. Meyers, FL to Akron, OH with her Mini Clubman S to be closer to her granddaughter. As a proud British person, she loves the car but is concerned about Midwest/lake effect winters and was thinking of getting a CUV/SUV. Having been a loyal reader of this column and the rest of TTAC, I made the foolish suggestion of just getting a second set of wheels with snow tires on them instead.

I say foolish not because it’s necessarily the wrong advice (though I want your input on that), but because now it’s my job to armchair it from 300 miles away with someone who’s not exactly a car person.

She took the Mini to a local tire shop and they tried to steer her toward a set of winter-biased all seasons. It wasn’t clear from the conversation I had with her whether the shop understood that she was asking for an extra pair of wheels and tires, not just new tires on the car. I’ve never shopped for snow tires, so I’m a bit out of my depth. I guess my questions are:

  1. Is this a reasonable strategy, or not worth the hassle for her? She wouldn’t be swapping the tires twice a year herself. It would be either a nearby son-in-law, me on a trip up, or a local shop.
  2. Why studded vs. studless vs. all season?

Sajeev answers:

You did the right thing! (Even this Houstonian says that with certainty!) It’ll take a metric ton of unplowed snow to get a Mini shod with winter tires stuck in a driveway. Akron is a big city with plowed streets, so she won’t get stuck going anywhere in town.

Since you are 300 miles away, go online to or and price out winter tires mounted on a spare set of wheels, shipped directly to her. It might be more than getting junkyard wheels and cobbling it all up on your own, but you don’t have that luxury. Have her print out the quote and make her take it to the local shops to meet or beat it. If they won’t, buy online and they can swap wheels for her.

My take on studded vs. studless vs. all season? The latter is a compromise; they work reasonably well in most conditions. Studless tire tech stole the spotlight in the last 15-ish years, relegating studded tires to the worst roads: those with heavy amounts of unplowed snow and icy conditions. Not icy patches, but icy roads.  

To wit, this government analysis, and the quote below from Mr. (Dr.?) Scheibe:

“The issues surrounding studded tire performance and safety are complex. From the standpoint of traction alone, studded tires, when new, often provide some benefit over other tire types on ice-covered roads when the temperature is near freezing. However, the advent of the new studless tires has diminished the marginal benefit, and recent studies suggest that the infrequent, narrow range of conditions necessary for benefit from studded tires may not outweigh their detrimental effect on traction in dry or wet conditions on certain pavement types.”

[Image: Shutterstock user Alex Polo]

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73 Comments on “Piston Slap: Studded vs Studless vs All Season?...”

  • avatar


    #1 If you’re driving a little car (like a Mini) with poor ground clearance. You’ll need all the help you can get. Studs will definitely help – but you’ll only want to have those if you live in a horribly frigid and snowy climate…

    …and if that’s the case…why the hell are you driving a Mini in Winterfell?

    #2 If you have a crossover or SUV, all you need are studless all seasons or snow tires.

    If the snow where you are is so frequent or so thick that the question of needing studs comes up – then maybe you ought to buy a Hummer H2 or a Wrangler.

    I absolutely had to buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT to supplement my Hellcat because I absolutely can not drive that car over these horrible roads and its tires absolutely do not function on ice/snow.

    But that car can function well with all-season tires or snow tires – although I’d be a nuub to drive that car all year round.
    A mini has less clearance and less power if it gets stuck. I recommend your mom get a crossover.

    • 0 avatar

      This is Akron, OH. Winter tires on a regular car are sufficient for any conditions one’s MIL should be driving in.

      • 0 avatar

        Rims and snows is the best answer. More extreme measures depends on your routine. In Toronto I’ve always made it to work in a Ford Focus with winter tires.

        If I was a midwife or a firefighter and absolutely had to get places no matter what, then maybe a 4WD is called for.

        My parents haven’t bothered with winter tires for their Escape, despite having had them on previous vehicles. They’re retired, if road conditions are bad they just stay home.

    • 0 avatar

      There is no comparison between all season and winter tires. Even if she were to go to a CUV winter tires would be best but there is no reason she can’t get around just fine with a set of Blizzaks or Ice-X on her Mini. I have tried the best rated all seasons and still got stuck in our driveway and after switching to Blizzaks I have yet to get stuck in our 2wd truck. Even last year during deer season in a cornfield pushing snow with the front bumper in places.

      Let me put it this way. It is like going from all seasons to slicks on a Hellcat on the strip.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with everything Blizzak. A friend had a one year old set left over about ten years ago after selling his WRX. He gave them to me and I put them on a 1975 450SL. I had never driven the car in the winter previously but thought it would be a good test. I put the hardtop on and took the car to Klamath Falls via Mount Hood highway. No problems even in six inches of fresh, plus they count as traction devices when those are required. The tires performed much better than I thought possible, and inspired confidence in all conditions. Now all of our cars get their Blizzaks and wheels installed in early November. At all four corners, of course. And they’re damned decent in the wet/dry that does occur in winter, with reasonable noise. Win-Win if you could find some cheap wheels at PicknPull.

    • 0 avatar

      How do you know these things? Do you live in a place with ice- or snow-covered roads? I doubt that you do.

      Try driving down a hill on an icy, curving road. Then reassess your position.

    • 0 avatar

      My recommendation would be to order a studded set of Winter tires from Discount Tire or Tire Rack, if studs are permitted in Akron, OH during the winter season. I ordered a set of four Blizzak tires with 17″ steel wheels for the Grand Cherokee and had them studded locally. Worked great in the mountains in winter.

      No reason why they wouldn’t work equally well for a Mini used for city driving.

      If studs are not allowed (for use on glare/black iced roads) I recommend four Mud & Snows on a separate steel wheels for winter use. Most tire places will swap them for free before winter sets in and charge ~$40 to swap them in Spring. If the winter set is bought at a local tire place, the swaps are often free of charge for the life of the tread.

    • 0 avatar

      Please stop giving advice for things you don’t appear to know anything about.

      1. Winter tires (snowflake on the side) NOT all-seasons, nor “4-season snowflake”. The tread design and rubber compound are a huge part of keeping a car under control.

      2. it’s not about getting stuck. Stuck is not, per se, dangerous. It’s braking/turning in time. And for that, 4×4/awd doesn’t help.

      3. Never had a clearance issue in snow. In OTTAWA, ON. That’s with a Genesis Coupe (lowered), Acura RSX, Ford Tempo, or Mazda MX6. If you have traction, you can push the snow in front of you. For that, see point 1.

      4. power. Power does not fix stuck in snow problems. It actually makes it worse. Spin those tires up real good. Friction melts the snow. The snow immediately freezes to ice. Then, you have wonderful little ice-cups holding the tires, so they’ll spin, but not go anywhere. careful use of the throttle, rocking back and forth, and patience, not mashing the throttle, get you out of snow you’re stuck in.

      5. Regarding studs: check your local laws carefully. Ontario gets a lot of snow, but it’s only up North (well past Ottawa / Barrie areas) that Studs become legal, and that’s 100% due to the damage and wear they do to the roads. Most states/provinces/municipalities do not allow them, so check very carefully.

      My experience?

      Ottawa. This winter we had four significant snowfalls (30-55cm each) and regular thaws between them (lots of ice formed on the road). Also, 20 additional Ottawa winters. Every single car I’ve ever stopped to push, pull, or tow out of a snow bank has been on all-seasons. Every. Single. One.

      If the temperature gets below zero, you want winter tires on. They’re slightly nosier, but they are 100% proven to provide better stopping, turning, control, and yes, acceleration, in winter (not snow, winter) conditions. They’re an investment in protecting your car. As far as I’m concerned, anywhere that gets cold and snow of any kind, they’re not optional equipment, they’re required. Spend $40k on a vehicle? Don’t be so cheap as to not spend a grand on the four rubber patches that keep it connected to the ground.

      • 0 avatar

        It doesn’t have to cost a grand for 4 Winter Tires. In my area, local tire retailers like Big O, Martin Tire, Discount Tire and Independents will sell you four Winter tires for ~ $400, mounted and balanced on your original wheels.

        In Spring, if you want your old tires mounted and balanced, it will cost $40 + tax, but more often it is free. At least in my area. Maybe not in yours.

        I know this because I have done it on several of my own vehicles BEFORE I bought an extra set of steel wheels for the Winter tires.

        The steel wheels locally cost me $20 each + tax, at that time, and were pulled off identical vehicles that had alloy wheels put on them.

        Best place for steel wheels IMO, if not available locally, is Tire Rack and Discount Tire. They can get whatever it is a buyer needs.

    • 0 avatar

      I live in deep snow Maine and my 2004 MINI Cooper S has plowed fresh snow many times over the last 11 winters, with the front bumper/dam with no problems other than changing from my summer performance rubber and wheels 17″ and my winter full Snow 16″ wheels before I actually need them. I have never felt the need for studs (I last ran them back in 1969 on the first version of the Chevy Blazer [serial number 0000075 a pilot production one that chevy had to replace the fiberglass top on 3 times due to cracking) and back then they did make a difference in the mountains of Colorado where I was a Ski instructor and had to get to work like the snowplow driver.

      if it matters the MINI has all the fancy traction anti skid etc on it. but I just start off in 2ed rather than first when it is ice conditions.

  • avatar

    Hmm plowed then there’s ploughed you know that Brit spelling thing.

    What about TPMS in the new set of wheels? I don’t know if that’s a factor. Then there’s road hazard warranty add ons and storage to consider.

    No kidding 4 wheels & tires/tyres could set her back best part of $2K. Be prepared.

    • 0 avatar

      I drive a Mini Clubman S that I purchased 16 inch steelies and winter tires for; I paid a grand total of 900 from Tire Rack, although I skipped installing TPMS because I also ditched the terrible run-flats.

    • 0 avatar

      I live just outside Detroit. Drive a 2013 Cooper S year round. My winters are Momo Win Pro Alloy 16″ with Blizzaks. Cost $1000 from Discount Tire, they swap summers and winters for free. They lasted me 3 years, pretty shot this summer. Discount tire will also hold your winter tires in storage for a fee.
      Have never been stuck in any snow.

      • 0 avatar

        Discount is great.

        I went with Tire Rack for snow tires & wheels because of a blowout sale – all in on 17″ Momo winter wheels and great show tires for less than $700 (it was like 88 per wheel and 78 per tire) delivered mounted and balanced.

        • 0 avatar

          I used Tire Rack for my previous car a Scion Xa. Steelies and Blizzaks was about $800. This time I got lucky and had befriended a Discount Tire Managers wife. Hooked me up.

  • avatar

    Separate set of winter rims and tires from TireRack is always the right answer.

  • avatar

    I purchased a Mini Cooper S last year and as i have used snow tires in the winter going back and forth to work i purchased a set for the Mini.

    Total cost was approx $800.00 including used rims. I purchased a full sets of tires on line and had them mounted by a local shop.

    Only takes about 1/2 hour to mount the snow tires. I did away with the runflats and keep a small tire kit in the car in case of a flats. I also have AAA so no worries. Why they sell cars with runflats i will never know. They feel like you are driving on solid rubber tires.

  • avatar

    You don’t need studs – winter tires are good enough. C&D did a good piece last winter comparing winter tires.

    How you drive is often just as key as what tires are on the car. You could have the best tires ever, but if you still drive aggressively you will always end up in the ditch.

    • 0 avatar

      Winter tires alone do not work on icy roads. No grip. Studs on all four tires, where allowed, provide the traction and braking on ice.

      A moot point if a state does not allow studs because of dry-road damage.

      • 0 avatar

        I have studless winters on my GTI, which should be a decent analogy for a Mini, and had different studless winters on my TL before that. I’ve literally never had an issue with ice (or snow, for that matter) through four winters – some of them historically, Biblically terrible – in Boston, New Hampshire and Vermont. Studless winter tires will be utterly and completely sufficient for Akron, and will save wear both on the tires and the roads (and the owner’s driveway).

      • 0 avatar

        Modern winter tires do well on ice. Unless you are driving on frozen lakes or Alpine passes, winter tires are more than sufficient.

        • 0 avatar

          They may in your area and terrain. But for us in my region, going up the mountainous US82 two-lane road in winter, vehicles with studs (or chains), are the only thing that move, either up, or down, the mountain.

          Who in hell wants to strap on four chains in the dead of winter?

          • 0 avatar

            The car in question is in Ohio. It’s not going up or down any mountains. Studless winter tires are the right product.

          • 0 avatar

            ^This. In fact, Ohio may have a law against studded tires, I’m not certain.

            And Akron, being ~40 miles south of the Cleveland metro, will only get occasional lake-effect.

          • 0 avatar

            Studs are legal from November to April but your right, they’re absolutely unnecessary in Akron. Neither my family or myself have ever needed them in Ashtabula County, which sees the highest annual snowfall averages in the state, and much more than Akron gets. There can be 15″ in the snow belt, drive 60 miles south and barely a dusting. Once you get away from the lake significant snow falls are few and far between.

            If it makes you feel better get a set of snow tires but in all honesty a good set of All Seasons is more than adequate.

      • 0 avatar

        If it’s rarely icy, chains are a great solution.

        I certainly wouldn’t get studs just because it might be icy one weekend a year…

        (Here in Portland that’s more or less the case – we often get a winter ice storm, and Oregon allows studded tires in the winter months.

        I just chain up when it’s icy; it’s not like I’d be driving fast anyway.)

        • 0 avatar

          “I just chain up when it’s icy”

          Been there, done that. I had to travel from Denver to Grand Junction one year in the dead of winter, and when I got to the Eisenhower Tunnel only vehicles with chains were allowed to proceed.

          There are special places on the side of I70 for vehicles to put on chains before they get to the Tunnel, so I pulled over and strapped on four chains to my 2006 RWD F150, by myself. I broke sweat.

          Traveling at 15mph is not fun. But taking off the four chains at the far end was a breeze by just driving off them, once unclipped.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry, cat, that’s just not accurate. Winter compounds + hydrophilic tread = better traction than studs in most icy conditions. As you are doubtless aware, you don’t slide on ice; you slide on the thin layer of water that the pressure of the tires creates on the ice, just like an ice skate but spread out. Give that water layer somewhere to go, in this case into the tread, and there is no sliding. I went from studded snows to studless more than fifteen years ago and wouldn’t think of going back.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    No point doing anything in the spring.

    Call around Mini dealers for wheels. They may have closeouts, and OEM wheels are 1000x better than aftermarket. They fit right (hub-centered), they have the right offset so the handling doesn’t go all weird, and they won’t corrode right away.

    Studded tires are great if she lives on top of an un-plowed mountain pass, but they are a noisy bother for everyone else. They aren’t even legal in some jurisdictions.

  • avatar

    i got a set of studdable winter tires, minus the studs, for our bmw sedan. live in central indiana; grew up in northern indiana with the lake michigan lake effect snow. next time i would go with a set of more performance oriented winter tires.

    sort of the blizzard of ’77 when nothing was on the streets standard winter tires are all she needs.

  • avatar

    This year I tried the Conti wintercontact SI on my Golf wagon. Very pleased with the snow performance of the tire. I did a five day long ski trip up to Tremblant with zero issues. I drove back into the US in a snow storm and the tires did very well. I think I Have about 9k miles on the tires so far.

  • avatar

    Akron doesn’t get enough snow to even warrant a snow tire. A good all season is more than sufficient.

    • 0 avatar

      Cha-ching! Especially if she is retired and not on a schedule. Sit back and let the plows and salt trucks do their thing for a couple hours before venturing out in the snow. Now if she is interested in breaking trails thru fresh snow or ice, then the winter tires (studless are fine) might be worth the effort.

    • 0 avatar

      Akron gets plenty of snow for snow tires. Anytime between mid-November and early April can be snow tire weather. The number of days you need snow tires may be less than other areas, but on the days that you need them, you really, really want them.

  • avatar

    *Cue 19 hours of tire discussion, which can be ended by Dave Calgary comment about tires.*

  • avatar

    Order a package from tirerack. Have them delivered to the “trusted local installer” or whatever it’s called. She drops in and they mount them for her. It could not be easier, even if it could be cheaper.

    • 0 avatar

      If it snows on a regular basis in Akron winter tires are the way to go, and mounted on separate wheels is a bonus. Although its an expense both the summer and winter tires will last longer doing duty 50% of the time on the car.

      All season tires are not winter tires, and do not perform well in snow.

      Most folks have a deductible on their insurance, and if a mishap occurs with summer or all season tires, the deductible will consume the better part of a winter tire package.

      ABS – Traction Control – Stability Program will work better with winter tires with snow. Which is usually when all this technology comes into play on surfaces that offer less traction.

      The rubber compound on winter tires is formulated to offer better traction in colder weather, its the reason winter tires dislike warm weather, and pavement.

      Studs are antiquated and banned in many jurisdictions.

    • 0 avatar

      To clarify, I mean a wheel and tire package. -1 sizing the wheels is good if they fit over the brakes.

  • avatar

    Set of snow tires is all that she will need. We’ve run all seasons on my wife’s 2005 Cooper S (6MT, optional LSD) and it does quite well in the snow with just that setup. We have the luxury of not relying on it 100% for snow driving, though.

    Or, she could get one of the new Clubman All4 models. That is what my wife ultimately decided that she wanted. I’ll probably outfit it with a second set of wheels and snow tires because it is getting delivered with summer tires. Apparently the 18″ wheels can’t come with all seasons… only summer tread. If she’d have opted for 17″ wheels, we could have all seasons.

  • avatar

    I totally agree with Sajeev – studless snows mounted on separate wheels from Tire Rack or Discount Tire are the way to go. For decades, that strategy has allowed countless members of my family to safely navigate the snowy winters of western NY and the southern tier of NY in all types of rides, from sports cars and sedans to SUVs. I’ve continued to use the same strategy since moving to Washington, DC, which has allowed me to stay mobile in RWD cars on the odd snowy day. During some of the epic snowstorms we’ve had in recent years, snow tires have enabled me to safely make it to the office days before the large number of colleagues with only all weather tires have been able to get back on the roads.

    One other tip – when the time comes, Tire Rack will even ship the wheels and tires directly to a local installer, saving you or your MIL the hassle of hauling them to the installer yourselves. In upstate NY, some garages will even store the off-season wheels and tires for you. You may be able to find a similar arrangement in OH. (Sadly, I’ve not found any garages in the DC area who will do the same, which isn’t too surprising given the rarity of people here who use dedicated winter wheels and tires.)

  • avatar

    This is ridiculous:

    “…and recent studies suggest that the infrequent, narrow range of conditions necessary for benefit from studded tires may not outweigh their detrimental effect on traction in dry or wet conditions on certain pavement types.”

    In my neck of the woods, the roads can become slick or icy in a matter of minutes. It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, so it’s essential to be prepared. Having good snow tires, preferably with studs, is essential. You may only need this capacity 10% of the time, but when you use it, you’ll appreciate it.

    Issues of traction and ground clearance are irrelevant. I’ve never become stuck, and I’ve driven in some horrendous snow storms. What’s important is maintaining control of the vehicle while it is in motion. Think about crossing a bridge on a cold, dark night and suddenly you hit slush followed by a patch of ice. Would you prefer to be in a large, top-heavy 4-wheel-drive vehicle with summer tires or a low, front-wheel drive compact with Nokian Hakkapeliittas?

    These days, the guy who drives a snowplow uses a Toyota Tercel to get to work.

  • avatar

    First off, are studded tires legal in Ohio? I know in WI where I live they aren’t legal.

    I’ve driven on a set of GENERAL ALTIMAX ARCTIC (Nokians I think) for 3 winters here in WI and they have been awesome. Except for the one time I pulled off the road into a snow bank and beached the car. It slid up on the snow bank and lost traction to the tires, it was so bad that the shift linkage got packed with snow.

    All in all, I’m a believer in good snow tires, they take the stress out of winter driving.

    • 0 avatar

      I think those are a Conti/General tire brand named Gislaved and they are a previous generation of the nordfrost product line.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, the Generals are a re-badge of the Gislaved Nord Frost 3. Gislaved is a Swedish tire brand that is also owned by Continental. The Nord Frost 5 and Nord Frost 100 – the current iteration – followed. There are a few sets of the three versions in use (in studded form) among my friends and family. All good tires.

  • avatar

    Ditto everyone’s opinion that studless snows (Blizzaks et. al.) are the way to go. But, if you’re going to be getting the wheels mounted for you instead of DIY – it might be worthwhile to find a tire place that will store your tires and just mount/unmount the tires on your stock rims.
    Not everyone has the room to store the full set of wheels. And, depending on how long you’re keeping the car, it might even be cheaper. I do the full set wheel/tire combo, but I keep my cars forever so way cheaper in the long run.

  • avatar

    I live and travel in mountainous snow country, so run studless snows. Hard to beat.

    In Akron, for a MIL that isn’t focussed on skiing, a GOOD all season like Nokian WR-G3 would probably be perfectly fine.

  • avatar

    After years of struggling through winters with our Subaru wagon on all season tires, I invested in a set of winter tires on steel wheels. All seasons aren’t bad when new but lose most of their traction by the time they are half worn. They provided enough traction for the Subaru to climb a bare icy hill but not enough to push through three or four inches of snow on top of the ice. Winter tires coped easily with snow on top of ice.

  • avatar

    A good compromise, suitable for all but the most severe winters, are all-weather tires from Nokian and Toyo, biased for winter use and winter-rated (snowflake emblem on sidewall). The Nokian’s have aramid fiber sidewalls (extra protection from potholes and road debris).
    As for stylish lo-profile tires the German brands love, potholes and winter roads will eat those in short order!

  • avatar

    I’m in Cleveland, OH.

    A few years back I had the unfortunate experience of meeting a Mini Cooper S in the middle of winter. The idiot was driving on low-profile summer tires and lost it when he dropped the clutch.

    It was a hard impact. 3000+ lbs of 1990 Camry Wagon wasn’t going to stop in a controllable manner so I just let it roll. The steel beam behind my bumper punched his front strut tower through the Mini’s hood.

    Screw that trendy art student that was too clueless to do what you recommend here, Sajeev. Around here a set of steelies and winter tires seems imperative for any vehicle that have low-profiles from the OEM.

    Lost my childhood car that night. The “Battlewagon” wasn’t dead but sufficiently wounded to be deemed a total loss. I gave her a proper send-off with a few weeks of hoonage before meeting its fate via an insurance auction.

  • avatar

    Depending upon the climate would bias what kind of tire I would get. The Tire rack surveys are good here for determining what to get.

    Blizzaks are more of an ice tire than a snow tire, so if you get deep snow more than ice I would get something else. I certainly would not get studded, as they are only good on ice, not snow, and really compromise the dry braking. Have to check if they are even legal, in may places they are not.

  • avatar

    Step 1: Be informed

    Akron snowfall data:

    Based on that data, I’d get a set of performance snow tires but I’d bet she could easily get away with a set of Nokian WRG3 tires year-round.

  • avatar

    +1 on probably not needing snow tires at all. In Ohio, if you live in any kind of city, they’re pretty efficient at getting the snow salted and cleared. A decent set of “winter” all-season tires on smaller rims (potholes, salt, and freeze/thaw cycles go together, you need the taller rubber) are all you need.

    You can usually find a decent set of spare wheels on Craigslist, and if you’re lucky, snow tires already mounted in decent shape.

    • 0 avatar

      You can find a set of snow tires and steel wheels for the Clubman S on TireRack for under $600. That’s just over a typical insurance deductible. Worth the cost.

  • avatar

    “In my neck of the woods, the roads can become slick or icy in a matter of minutes. It’s difficult to predict when this will happen, so it’s essential to be prepared. Having good snow tires, preferably with studs, is essential. You may only need this capacity 10% of the time, but when you use it, you’ll appreciate it.”

    The OP’s question isn’t about your neck of the woods, so stop it.

    Studs aren’t a legal option in Akron, OH (or anywhere else in the non-frozen-north part of the Midwest), so forget about that. And they wouldn’t be the right answer for Akron if they were legal. Akron doesn’t have mountains, it has hills. There are interstates and other highways, and city streets, and they get plowed and salted. Most people in the area have all season tires, because that’s what came on their cars. People who know better buy a set of winter tires.

    As damn near everyone has already said, a set of Blizzaks, preferably on their own wheels, will take care of her nicely. Put ’em on after Thanksgiving, take them off late March or so, job done.

    I live in NE Indiana, so enjoy fairly similar winter weather to next door Ohio. I have snow tires for my Golf R, for my wife’s 525iT, and had them for my former Mini, and even for my E36 M3 (awesome snow car!). In the snow I laugh at people running All Season (i.e. no season) tires.

    • 0 avatar

      “Studs aren’t a legal option in Akron, OH (or anywhere else in the non-frozen-north part of the Midwest), so forget about that.”

      BS. It took no more than a minute to verify that studded tires ARE legal in Ohio, and Indiana too for that matter. Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota are the only exceptions in the snow belt. Legal most everywhere, even deep into the south. Doesn’t mean that they are the right tool for the job.

  • avatar

    Studs are a terrible thing to do to your fellow motorists. Use them only if there is NO OTHER OPTION. That means you live on a steep hill and you work as a snowplow driver or linesman.

    They should really be subject to a tax that pays for the (considerable) damage they do to the roads.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that studded tires should be taxed according to the damage they do. That would mean that heavy trucks would pay a much higher tax than lightweight cars. I expect the tax on lightweight cars with modern European studded tires would be practically insignificant.

      Here in Saskatchewan, where studs are legal year-round, the roads are destroyed by freeze-thaw cycles and heavy truck traffic before stud wear can have much effect. In regions with greater road life, it makes sense to limit or tax studded tires.

  • avatar

    A lot depends on the driver’s confidence and experience driving on the ice and snow. Jeremy’s mother is coming from Florida, where obviously winter weather isn’t an issue, but perhaps she has previous Rust Belt experience. Unless she’s got good snow driving chops already, it would be best to get her onto winter tires. Studless is the best compromise for most people, with studs really only advisable if there’s truly nasty road conditions much of the time and she doesn’t have the option to just wait until the roads have been plowed and salted.

    Swapping to a set of snow tires on the cheapest rims available is a minor hassle twice per year, but far less hassle then dealing with a single avoidable accident.

  • avatar

    “However, the advent of the new studless tires has diminished the marginal benefit, and recent studies suggest that the infrequent, narrow range of conditions necessary for benefit from studded tires may not outweigh their detrimental effect on traction in dry or wet conditions on certain pavement types.”

    Marginal? On the most slippery ice – that which is smooth, warm, and wet – the best studless tires require 150% greater stopping distance than the best studded tires.

    Modern studded tires also typically outperform the best studless winter tires on dry and wet pavement, because they don’t rely on such extensive siping and soft compounds for grip on ice.

    Notice that the makes and models of the studded tires discussed in that WSDOT study are never mentioned, because they tested obsolete no-name studded tires against the best studless tires of the time. Still, they found that the studded tires had twice the traction of the studless tires on smooth ice.

    Studded tires aren’t for everyone though. They are relatively noisy and result in increased fuel consumption and road wear. In my climate, it’s a small price to pay to eliminate the need to ever drive cautiously due to traction concerns.

  • avatar

    For conservative drivers who would have to pay a shop to change their wheels, going with a winter-rated all-season such as the Nokian WR or Hankook Optimo 4S, or even a non-studded studdable winter tire – which will typically use a harder compound with comparable dry/wet performance to a decent all-season tire – makes a lot of sense.

    Unless you’re cornering and accelerating hard enough to chew up the tread, or driving fast enough to put excessive heat into the tire (driving well above highway speed limits), the disadvantages of a firmer-compound winter tire compared to an all-season are minimal. I have no doubt that they would even out-perform most of the low-rolling-resistance tires on the market in summer conditions, especially in wet conditions.

  • avatar

    Another downside to studded tires that I haven’t seen anyone mention is road noise.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey, I mentioned it! You just have to get through the wall of text to get there.

      Sometimes the sound is barely noticeable, when the studs have minimal protrusion. But some can be quite loud.

      For example, the factory-studded Pirelli Ice Zeros I put on my friend’s car this past winter were surprisingly loud to me, and I’ve driven on dozens of different sets of studded tires. I can see why they’re the second best ice tire behind the Hakka 8 with those aggressive studs, but I’m really hoping they bed in a bit more and quiet down. I’d take the trade-off of reduced ice performance with half the stud protrusion for reduced noise.

      My usual online dealer for European factory-studded tires was out of the Gislaved Nord Frost 100s, so I decided to give them a try despite their high noise rating in the last NAF test.

      The last Nord Frost 100s I installed were fairly noisy too at first, despite having one of the better noise ratings. But they quieted a fair bit as they bedded in. I’m hoping these Pirellis do the same.

      My friend doesn’t seem to mind though. She hated winter driving before her first set of studded tires. “Every drive was a white knuckle affair.” Now she enjoys watching others slide around instead of her, and the noise is just a reminder that she’ll never experience the threat of black ice or slippery conditions again. Still, she’d probably prefer if it were a quieter reminder like her previous tires, though those old BFG Winter Slaloms had nowhere near the ice traction of these.

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